Wednesday, 17 September 2008

David Foster Wallace Remembered (I wrote some of this shortly after learned of Wallace's death, but didn't publish it because it seemed too much about me. His kindness was in direct contrast to my arrogance—I needed to establish the latter before I could address the former—but it was still too focused on me. It wasn't until I read bianca steele's comment and dan visel and Kathleen Fitzpatrick's remembrances that I found a way to frame this rambling non-story.) Infinite Jest was published the second semester of my freshman year at LSU. Every time I saw someone lugging it around, I’d approach them. By the time I'd scaled half the novel, an informal reading group had created itself. (This is, I think, one of the reason his death has had the effect it’s had—so many of his readers transferred some bit of the intimacy they felt, based on the investment required to read IJ, to other readers.) This loose association of people who read Wallace, Pynchon, and Gaddis were the same people who’d be reading McSweeney’s, The Believer and n+1 a decade later. Because Wallace first brought us together, I always assumed narcissism drove my belief that he was responsible for the birth of arch-sentimentality. But I don't think it's narcissism. Without Wallace, there would've been no David Eggers, no Marco Roth, no Joss Whedon. Kathleen's tribute includes a quotation from the closing paragraphs of "E Unibus Pluram" (1993): [Mark] Leyner's work, the best image-fiction yet, is both amazing and forgettable, wonderful and oddly hollow. I'm finishing up by talking about it at length because, in its masterful reabsorption of the very features TV had absorbed from postmodern lit, it seems as of now the ultimate union of U.S. television and fiction. It seems also to limn the qualities of image-fiction itself in stark relief: the best stuff the subgenre's produced to date is hilarious, upsetting, sophisticated, and extremely shallow—and just plain doomed by its desire to ridicule a TV-culture whose ironic mockery of itself and all "outdated" value absorbs all ridicule. Leyner's attempt to "respond" to television via ironic genuflection is all too easily subsumed into the tired televisual ritual of mock worship. Entirely possible that my plangent cries about the impossibility of rebelling against an aura that promotes and attenuates all rebellion says more about my residency inside that aura, my own lack of vision, than it does about any exhaustion of U.S. fiction's possibilities. The next real literary "rebels" in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of "anti-rebels," born oglers who dare to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre values. Who treat old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that'll be the point, why they'll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk things....
Ha Ha Ha Not Funny. (For those who prefer their funny straight, here's a post about me catching two students having sex in my office. Enjoy!) Had terrible insomnia last night. About 4 a.m. the cats triple-teamed the litter box. Cleaned it. Ran out of litter. Remembered I had more litter in the car. Walked down three flights of stairs and approached my car. WHOOP WHOOP! Cars only talk to other cars, I think, and continue to walk toward my car. WHOOP WHOOP! I look at the cruiser. A hand appears from the window and waves. Exhausted and somewhat confused, I waved back. WHOOP WHOOP! Now the hand points to the ground immediately next to the cruiser. I walk over. What is your business here? Cat litter, I reply. A little late to be buying cat litter, isn't it? I already bought it, I say, and point at the trunk my car. So if I open up your trunk there, all I'm going to find is cat litter, then? And a case of Dr. Pepper. I wanted that too. You live around here? I point to my building. There's been a report of a burglary and suspicious persons near here. I'll need to see some ID. I don't have any. You normally come down at 4 a.m. to fetch litter without ID? Normally I'm not awake. I have insomnia. I'm going to need you to put your hands behind your back and spread your legs. I comply, and for the first time in my adult life have my face pressed on the hood of a police cruiser. You're fine. Before you pop the trunk for me, you're sure I'm not going to find any surprises? I may have left a winter coat in there. No dope, no open containers, just Pepsi, litter, and maybe a jacket? I decide finding Dr. Pepper instead of Pepsi isn't the kind of surprise he means and bite my lip while he roots around. What's in this then? I crane my head backwards to look at the nondescript box in his hand and decide honesty is the best policy, so I tell him I have no idea what is in that then. So you can't say that it's not dope? I say I can certainly say that. The litter and Pepsi checks out. I'm not sure whether he says that to me or the squawker on his neck, so I say Mm-Hm. He puts the litter, the Dr. Pepper and the mysterious box on the hood of my car and waves me to him. You need to know what's in your boxes, you know? I tell him I know. How am I supposed to know this isn't stolen property if you don't know what's in it? I nod my head and tell him I should know what's in my boxes and that I'm not sure why I don't know what's in that one. So how can you be sure it's not dope? I say I'm not the sort of person...

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